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Axios 8 update: Democrats aren't running the table

Illustration of United States map with the Axios 8 states highlighted
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With one week until the midterm elections, the state of the Axios 8 for 2018 races suggests that Democrats are still riding a blue wave — but not strong enough to help them win all the races that looked within their reach earlier in the cycle.

Why it matters: We selected the Axios 8 to include not just high-profile races, but ones that would only be competitive if the blue wave is massive. The House is definitely in play, but Republicans don't have to worry about all the races they were sweating before.

The Axios 8 for 2018:

1. Texas Senate: Remember when Beto O'Rourke was going to turn Texas blue? That's looking less likely now that Ted Cruz is still beating him in public polling. A new poll from the University of Texas at Austin does show Cruz trailing O'Rourke by 12 percentage points among independents. But that may not be enough to matter, because there have been “1 million more conservative votes than there are liberal or progressive votes” in recent statewide elections, per the Dallas Morning News.

2. Ohio gubernatorial: The polls show Democrat Richard Cordray leading Republican Mike DeWine by just 2.7 percentage points. But look to the Senate race, where Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is leading Jim Renacci by 16 points. A Cordray win could mean Democrats have a shot at other Midwest governorships. Real Clear Politics notes that "Ohio Democrats are hoping that Brown’s coattails will help Cordray ... while Republicans are banking on continued visits from President Trump to help them energize their base."

3. West Virginia's 3rd district: Democrat Richard Ojeda was getting attention for a while as an unusually strong candidate in this Trump district. But the latest poll shows Republican Carol Miller leading by five percentage points, and Trump is visiting the area four days before the election.

4. California's 45th district: Right now, the status of this race between GOP Rep. Mimi Walters and Democrat Katie Porter is unclear, since the most recent poll is from September. If Democrats win this Orange County district, they're likely to do well across southern California, Kyle Kondik of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball told us last month. Trump is a liability to Walters, who's been attacked by Democrats for voting with Trump 99% of the time.

5. Minnesota's 8th district: Every Republican I've talked to in the last three weeks feels like they have this open seat in the bag. In September, the NYT/Siena College poll had Republican Pete Stauber leading by just one percentage point. Now, their poll shows he's up by 15 percentage points.

6. Texas' 23rd district: Republican Rep. Will Hurd could have been vulnerable, and has had to distance himself from Trump, but it looks like he's out of danger. Voters now prefer him over Democratic Gina Ortiz Jones by 15 percentage points. In September, he was up by 8.

7. Florida's 26th district: Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is vulnerable — he's trying to keep his seat in a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016. In September, he was leading Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell 47% to 44%, but now she's leading 45% to 44%. Curbelo recently said he would oppose Trump's new trade deal with Mexico and Canada if Florida's specialty farm crops aren't protected.

8. Iowa's 3rd district: Republican Rep. David Young is in trouble, too. Prominent Democrats like former President Barack Obama and Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar are supporting Democrat Cindy Axne, who has led Young in both NYT/Siena College polls. Trump said at a recent Iowa rally that "a vote for David is a vote for me and our agenda to make America great again,” but Young is distancing himself from the president.

Go deeper: The Axios 8: How to tell the strength of the blue wave

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